Watch your six, Mike Woodson.
What's that? You don't like looking over your shoulder? Well, then watch your front at least. I also hope you're not opposed to turning your head left and right, because if the New York Knicks blow up, intra-franchise demons will be coming at you from all directions and you'll be done. Finished. Exiled like so many before you.
Following the Knicks' inexcusable loss to the Charlotte Bobcats, the head coach went on ESPN 98.7 FM in New York and said he isn't worried about job security, according to ESPN New York's Ohm Youngmisuk:
I have been at this thing 30 years. And the one thing I never and will never do is look over my shoulder. I won't do that. I got too much pride for that. I think what we have done here for the last few years, we made some major ground and some major steps.
Stubborn guy, refusing to play Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan's twisted little games. You're supposed to be intimidated, afraid of what the destructive overlord could do next.
Coach Woody is a Knicks employee or as I imagine Dolan likes to call them, lap dogs. You do what he says, and the iron fist and irrational sense of entitlement he rules with dictates you fear for your job.
Rational organizations might look at what you've done since taking over and allow that to buy you some time. As we know all too well, the Knicks are not a rational organization. At the first sign of trouble, self-inflicted or beyond internal control, Dolan's ax comes out and people lose their jobs.
The Knicks fire people; it's what they do.
Other teams promote job stability in a mercurial work environment, the Knicks endorse rickety conditions where only a single designated player is safe. In this case, that one player is Carmelo Anthony. Everyone else who isn't him? Yeah, they're fair game.
That's the message the Knicks have delivered time and time again. They'll shuffle the deck whenever they please, no matter what.
Donnie Walsh rescued the organization from the depths of obscurity not too long ago. Amar'e Stoudemire (the good one), Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler—that was all him. Or some version of him.
Growing tired of Dolan's tyrannical reign, he retreated to the shadows before setting up shop as a consultant for the Indiana Pacers once again. Because of how he left, it's obvious that this roster was a manipulated profile of the one he initially envisioned.
To this day, I firmly believe the Knicks wouldn't have given up as much as they did for 'Melo had Dolan not interjected and allowed Walsh to do is job. No matter, though, New York won 54 games last season and its first playoff series since 2000. Most of that was Walsh's doing.
After him came Glen Grundwald, who despite my frequent criticism (invested too much in older players), made the most of what he was handed. He managed to acquire players like Beno Udrih, Metta World Peace and Andrea Bargnani on the cheap. Under the circumstances, he did a great job.
On the eve of training camp, he too was cast aside in favor of a more Dolan-esque Steve Mills.
From Marc Stein and I: #Knicks to announce front-office shakeup. Ex-MSG prez Steve Mills return to organization in place of Glen Grunwald— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) September 26, 2013
In between this game of Musical GMs, Mike D'Antoni, Woodson's predecessor, resigned amidst a flurry of rumors. He wasn't meeting expectations with Anthony, so he left, on his own accord, before Dolan and the Knicks made the decision for him.
You see, no one is beyond dismissal in New York, even if they're doing a good job. They're all just one bad start, one failed expectation and one cranky Dolan away from being shown the door.
That seat of yours feeling hot yet, Woody?
Now About that Rotation of Yours...
In more ways than one, Woodson's refusal to worry about his job is admirable.
Bullheadedness can be a desirable quality at times. At others, it's injurious. And Mike Woodson's current take on the roster falls under the ladder.
"I've just gotta be patient, see how this plays out, and then make a firm decision about which way I'm gonna go with it," Woodson said before the Knicks hosted the Bobcats, per The Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring.
In lieu of what the numbers say, Woodson continues to go with his gut. And his gut is wrong. The Knicks are better off fielding smaller lineups.
Playing small allowed Anthony to have the best season of his career in 2012-13. It propelled the Knicks to 54 victories and slingshotted them to second place in the Eastern Conference.
Traditional five-man combines haven't. So far this season, Woodson's has intuitively started a frontcourt comprising Anthony, Bargs and Chandler three times. Not only are the Knicks 0-3 in those games, but that three-player partnership has been outscored by an average by 29.2 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com (subscription required).
Insisting that the Knicks continue to go big diminishes their ceiling. With Chandler out, perhaps Woodson will see the light. He has no choice. Bargs is going to play center, and defensively, it's going to be rough.
An absolute ton came of that ESPN radio interview w/ Mike Woodson. Tm's set to revert to small lineup, w 2 PGs, but will start Bargnani at C— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) November 6, 2013
One thing that could MAYBE save Bargnani at center: NYKs performed fine defensively when he's on the court w Prigioni. 102 pts per 100 plays— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) November 7, 2013
But at least the Knicks will be playing as they're meant to play—small.
At least they'll be playing a brand of basketball that could save Woodson's job.
This all comes back to Dolan; all of it.
According to ESPN New York's Ian Begley, Dolan expects the Knicks to win a title this season.
"He told them he believes they have enough talent to win it all," a source told Begley, "and he expects it to happen this year."
Not hopes; expects. The difference is important.
Dolan lives in his own little Dolan-centric world and subscribes to a set of nonexistent rules lawless societies wouldn't hesitate to reject. If he expects the Knicks to win a title—not hopes they merely contend, but really expects—then Woodson's job was always on the line.
New York could have started the season 4-0, clobbered every opponent it faced and Dolan's words still would have acted as a persisting pink slip being dangled over Woodson's desk. But the fact is, the Knicks didn't start 4-0; they're 1-3. And that's not good, not when only 17.7 percent of all teams that began the season 1-3 or worse since 2007-08 have gone on to make the playoffs.
Coming from someone who predicted the Knicks to win the Atlantic Division and finish third or fourth in the Eastern Conference—and who stands by this prediction—there's little chance the Knicks can win a title this season. They're fit to contend, but they're also at a severe disadvantage.
Most teams don't have an injured starting center (Chandler), fading volume scorer (Bargs), marginalized six-time All-Star (Amar'e Stoudemire) and an inclement No. 2 scorer prone to erratic shooting and suspension (J.R. Smith) rounding out their core.
Woodson coached them to 54 wins last season, despite recurrent injury issues. Stoudemire, Anthony and Chandler missed a combined 84 games in 2012-13. The job Woodson did, and has for the most part done, is phenomenal.
Unfortunately, Dolan doesn't care. Personnel turnover in New York is frequent because of how ruthless and easily forgetting the man at the top is.
Past success means nothing. All that matters is the bar Woodson is currently being held to, the one that, if injuries continue to plague the roster, he might not be able to approach with a 10-foot pole.
Will He Go?
For the time being, he shouldn't be going anywhere. That doesn't mean he won't soon enough or that he won't deserve walking papers if he receives them.
If Woodson doesn't figure out his rotation and what works best—small-ball—then he's not invulnerable to being canned. Remember, he's not mistake free in all this. For his part, he needs to do a better job of managing minutes and playing the right guys together.
Mike Woodson, on how he's doing (ESPN radio): "I could be better."— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) November 6, 2013
Discussing his potential exit this early, though, after what he's already done, makes little sense. More than four games is needed to draw irrevocable conclusions. Hell, more than 10 or 20 is needed, too.
Will Mike Woodson be fired by season's end?
Dolan's Knicks don't function this way, though. Expectations have been set by Dolan himself, and once he's set on something, there's no going back. Ever.
"Right now our team is not playing at the level where I expect it should be," Woodson said, via Youngmisuk. "That is on me. It is not on Jim [Dolan]. It is on Mike Woodson."
Fail to right this list of ever-growing wrongs, Woody, many of which aren't your fault, and Dolan will make sure of it. That the Knicks' transgressions, all of them, come crashing down on you.
*All stats in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference and NBA.com unless otherwise attributed, and are accurate as of November 7, 2013.